In the middle of the summer almost all Ukrainian students are gone on vacations. But millions of Ukrainians still remember the summer of 1944, when our compatriots and students returned back from holidays and took a position near Brody.
Divisional insignia of the Ukrainian Division "Galician"
That time young people had another “vacations”. German army was heavily demoralized by the defeats on the front and now they were trying to attempt the general situation any possible way. Also Germans were delaying the moment when the Soviet army will tread on their "fatherland." Defense line near Brody was almost broken and Wehrmacht Command decided that it would be expedient to put there Ukrainian volunteers. The idea was very successful because the Ukrainian Division, which was formed mostly of Galicians, was able to defend homes of Ukrainians, but not spill the blood of innocent people.
At the beginning of the war they had a chance to feel the “red embrace” and now they knew what would happen if the “red” come back. They also understood that if Soviets come, general part of local youth will be tortured in the NKVD prisons, others will be shot and their families will be taken to Siberia. They saw victims of 1941, which were murdered in Lviv, and among of them were friends and families and youth couldn’t allow this happen again. The best choice for Ukrainians was to protect their native lands with weapons, even if the weapons were German.
The recruits’ parade of the Ukrainian Division "Galician" in Lviv (18.VII.1943)
Lack of military experience was compensated by the patriotism and self-sacrifice of every volunteer. When Stalin learned about the location of the Ukrainian Division on the front line, he commanded to destroy it first. Soviet army had the superiority, because they had much more people and technics, and they fully controlled the midair.
19th of July was the day when the decisive attack began. That day was very hot and quiet, but melodic song of the field crickets was changed to chaotic whistles of the shells, and it became much hotter on the battlefield. After long battles German soldiers were exhausted and they couldn’t keep the positions, so the troops started retreating with a panic. Due these conditions Ukrainian fighters had to keep the defense. Sometimes they even had to fight in long melees.
Propaganda poster of the Ukrainian Division "Galician"
Stalin’s order was executing very well, and Russians were mercilessly bombing Ukrainians. “Red” army used tanks to break the front line. In the middle of the battle Fritz Freitag, who commanded the Division, removed his responsibilities and argued that it is impossible to manage Ukrainians. He finally realized that commanding the police part is different from taking part in frontline battles.
But Ukrainians didn’t notice the actions of the weak German officer, and continued keeping the defense. No fighter has moved to the side of the enemies in those days. Makarevich, the commander of the 8th company, died while shooting the enemies from heavy machine gun. There was an illusion that volunteers, who had embroidered lions on their sleeves, came to the battlefield to drink the blood of enemies.
Unidentified soldiers of the Ukrainian Division "Galician"
Meanwhile, Bolsheviks couldn’t break the line of defense, so they brought “Katuysha” to the battlefield to show “the hell” to Division. After lots of difficult fighting melees part of the Division broke through the encirclement. Their grey uniforms were mired with the blood of the native land and a blood of the enemies. Golden lions, which were embroidered on the Chevrons, became purple. That day Galicians quenched the blood thirst. General part of the fighters was left on the battlefield. On those hot July days the blood of Ukrainians was like thousands of beautiful poppies, which were blossomed in “Brody cauldron”.
“Division met the expectations and showed the unbelievable bravery in the battles, even though the fighters had no military experience.” – said Wolf Heike, the chief of a German staff. Commander of the Ukrainians, Fritz Freitag, who had left the Division in the most needed point of the battle, was awarded the Iron Cross. That will be a cross over the grave of all Ukrainians, who died at Brody battle. Those guys, who had embroidered lions over their uniforms, were full of proud, because they had a chance to die for a dream of “Gülder Rose”, which had leaned long time ago.
Mass grave of soldiers of the Ukrainian Division "Galician"
That’s why we mustn’t forget those young brave Ukrainians, who had put their lives on the National altarpiece. That was the blossom of the “Gülder Rose”, those youth, who were full of life, but who were killed…
Writer – Friend Vitovskyi (translation – Anna Klokun)(photos have taken from Wikipedia)